AFTER years of faithful service this donkey got his retirement present – a death sentence.

That was until an animal charity stepped in and saved Chocolate Muffin who they say was to be sold to a dog food firm.

Now she needs a vital operation costing £3,000 or she will have to be put down.

St Francis animal shelter is issuing a heartfelt plea to all animal-lovers – Save Our Donkey.

The animal, thought to be eight years old, needs an operation on her shoulder in the coming months or her condition will worsen and she will have to be destroyed.

Looked after at the shelter in Fair Oak, she got her colourful name from the Oven Door Bakery in the town which raised £400 to buy her from her former owner and cover initial vet bills.

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Now the bakery is hoping to help again and encourage other businesses and members of the public to get involved.

It will be holding charity raffles, donating cash and organising other fundraisers.

Bakery boss Jason Judd has been supporting the shelter for five years but said Muffin’s story particularly touched his heart. He said: “We are just down the road from the animal charity and when we heard about this we really wanted to help.

“Some of us have been up there several times to visit Muffin – once I went home with a cat so I feel very close to the shelter.”

Anne Hilman, shelter manager, said: “She’s pretty special and close to everyone’s hearts.

“Everyone at the shelter knows her and she is quite a popular old lady.

“She is friends with two Shetland ponies and four goats.”

Sadly, with dwindling donations due to the recession the shelter cannot afford to pay for the vital treatment and is appealing to the public to stump up the funds.

n To donate to this cause or give money to the shelter contact Anne on 023 8069 3282.